Mahatma Gandhi

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He wasn't the first, nor would he be the last, but the wiry, bespectacled man from Gujarat is certainly the most famous of the world's peaceful political dissidents. Mohandas Gandhi — also affectionately known as Mahatma — led India's independence movement in the 1930s and 40s by speaking softly without carrying much of a big stick, facing down the British colonialists with stirring speeches and non-violent protest. For his troubles, he's often named among the 20th century's most important figures and remains revered in India as a father of the nation. More than anything else, historians say, Gandhi proved that one man has the power to take on an empire, using both ethics and intelligence. Other peaceful resisters such as Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s civil rights movement and Tibet's Dalai Lama have emulated his methods in years since, shaking up the dynamic of world politics in the process. Urges Britain to quit India

It is hard to imagine the thin, robed Gandhi working in the rough and tumble world of law, but Gandhi did get his start in politics as a lawyer in South Africa, where he supported the local Indian community's struggle for civil rights. Returning to India in 1915, he carried over his desire to improve the station of the lower classes. Gandhi quickly became a leader within the Indian National Congress, a growing political party supporting independence, and traveled widely with the party to learn about the local struggles of various Indian communities. It was during those travels that his legend grew among the Indian people, historians say. Finding extreme poverty and famine in his own Gujarat province, Gandhi led an initiative to clean up the area, install new schools and build hospitals. He was ultimately arrested by British-appointed landlords for causing unrest, but talked his way out of jail and negotiated better conditions for the Indian farmers. When news about this sneaky feat spread through India, he earned the nickname...
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